Captain Marvel saved the universe this [past] weekend. She did it onscreen but her economic dominance has hushed the hatred (even if it’s just a brief respite). As you may know, this movie suffered a backlash by a bunch of Neanderthals, who took to the internet to kneecap the movie’s success. These hateful fans didn’t like what Captain Marvel stood for…or maybe they just felt aggrieved by the currents and eddies swirling about in the never-ending flood of today’s geek culture.
Captain Marvel crushed it at the box office this weekend, posting $153 million from 4,310 theaters. Overseas, this movie raked in an incredible $302 million (including $89 million in China), which is the fifth-highest international opening weekend ever.
Does that mean it’s a great movie? Not necessarily, but everyone agrees that succeeding financially is better than the alternative. I thought it was a lot of fun.
But once we get beyond all that nonsense, I have another issue to bring up: Where are all the toys?
I haven’t seen a crush of Captain Marvel merchandise on store shelves. That’s what outrages me.
Back in the 90s, licensees knew how to support a comic book movie. Batman was probably the modern-day granddaddy of it all. I remember speaking to Hanes in 1990 who explained they couldn’t make enough black T-shirts to keep up with the Bat-demand.
Now it’s a different story. In some ways, there aren’t enough retailers and there are too many retailers – both at the same time. Toys R Us’ absence is certainly felt when it comes to superhero toys. Their old arch-enemy, Wal-Mart, had a Captain Marvel endcap locally, but it was tucked away. I thought it was pretty hard to find. And there weren’t any Captain Marvel toys on the standard toy shelves at that store.
On the other hand, specialized retailers, like The Disney Store and Box Lunch got with the program early. For weeks they have been selling Captain Marvel merchandise. One can imagine that there is less of an incentive for big box retailers to “go deep” on nerd merchandise, as they know that collectors have so many other venues where they can purchase the products.
Stepping back, I don’t see many toys for Shazam, that other Captain Marvel, either. He’s got a movie due in a month.
Before attending last summer’s San Diego Comic-Con, I didn’t expect much from the Aquaman movie. But then….Great Neptune! Mattel’s display of upcoming action figures and playsets was incredible. Seeing those impressive toys turned the tide (ahem) of my expectations.
Way back in graduate school, I had an ethics teacher who argued against the commercialism of toy licensing. I vehemently disagreed with him on this point. I remember trying to leverage the famous Nutcracker ballet as part of an argument with him. If some kid liked that story, I reasoned, and wanted a physical Nutcracker, why was that so bad? My professor argued that we should enjoy the thing itself, and not be enraptured by commercialism.
Back then, and now, I can only respond to his seasoned thinking with, “Aw, man, what a gyp!” I think the world needs more Aquaman toys and more Shazam toys. And certainly more Captain Marvel toys.